The New York Times

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  • With Gun Votes Pending, New York Times Again Whitewashes GOP’s Radical Obstruction

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    Trying to jump-start the gun debate in America, Democrats last week, led by Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT), were forced to stage a nearly 15-hour talking filibuster in the wake of the Orlando gun rampage that left 49 people dead at a gay nightclub. The marathon event was held in order to champion two gun measures. One would give the Justice Department authority to block gun sales to people on the  terror watch list (the "terror gap"), and the other would require background checks on nearly all gun sales. 

    Those votes are scheduled for Monday evening as amendments to a DOJ spending bill. Republicans will also put forward two measures; one purports to straighten the background check system while actually weakening it, and the other purports to block sales to suspected terrorists but has "an unworkable standard" in actually stopping any sales. 

    But The New York Times has already been downplaying any chance of Congress passing the Democrats' proposals. “Why the Orlando Shooting Is Unlikely to Lead to Major New Gun Laws,” read a June 16 headline.

    Why were the background check and terror gap efforts supposedly doomed? “Largely because of hotly contested Senate races in a bitter election year,” the newspaper reported. “Election-year politics will make a bill to expand background checks an uphill climb,” the Times stressed.  

    For readers, the storyline was clear: The two sides simply can’t agree on this one. Maybe next year -- because for now, Republicans just don’t see eye-to-eye with Democrats on gun legislation.

    But none of that glossed-over analysis is applicable to what’s happening today. And the framing the Times uses -- which was also employed by other news organizations -- categorically ignores what’s been unfolding in American politics since President Obama was elected, and specifically it ignores how the Republican Party has tried its best, via radical obstructionism, to thwart Obama in every conceivable way. And Republicans are doing it in a manner that’s unprecedented in modern American politics.

    Here’s the political context that’s been flushed down the memory hole since the Orlando massacre: Republicans don’t simply disagree with Obama on gun legislation; they disagree with him on everything. ("If he was for it, we had to be against it," former Republican Ohio Sen. George Voinovich once explained.) Yet too many in the press still downplay that central fact.

    Indeed, so much of the congressional gun coverage last week glossed over the fact that Democrats had to stage a nearly 15-hour filibuster just to get Republicans to allow votes on gun legislation in the wake of another gun massacre. And these were gun amendments whose measures enjoy overwhelming, bipartisan support among voters.

    Media Matters has been documenting this journalism shortcoming for a very long time. Here was a recent thumbnail sketch of what blanketed GOP obstruction has looked like under Obama:

    Today's Republican Party is acting in a way that defies all historic norms. We saw it with the GOP's gun law obstruction, the Violence Against Women Act obstruction, the sequester obstruction, Supreme Court obstruction, minimum wage obstruction, 9/11 first responder obstruction, government shutdown obstruction, immigration reform obstruction, Chuck Hagel's confirmation obstruction, Susan Rice secretary of state obstruction, paid leave obstruction, Hurricane Sandy emergency relief obstruction, the Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans Act obstruction, and the consistent obstruction of judicial nominees.

    Good luck finding any of that context in the current coverage about the congressional gun votes. Instead, news consumers are supposed to pretend the last eight years of GOP obstruction never happened and that the gun votes this week are taking place in a vacuum.

    They’re also supposed to pretend one party in particular doesn’t sponsor obstructionism. Look at this June 14 Times article about the Orlando shooting and gunman Omar Mateen (emphasis added):

    Even if Mr. Mateen had remained on the watch list, it would not have stopped him from buying a gun. Congress blocked an attempt last year to give the F.B.I. the power to block gun sales to people on terrorism watch lists.

    But of course, “Congress” didn’t block the attempt in 2015; Republicans did.

    If you’re sensing déjà vu about gun massacres and jockeying over congressional votes, that’s because following the deadly rampage at the Sandy Hook elementary school in Newtown, CT, Republicans, at the urging of the National Rifle Association, blocked any attempt to vote on a gun safety bill to strengthen background checks.

    At the time, Sen. Patrick Toomey (R-PA) was among the few Republicans who tried to fashion together a compromise. In the end, the GOP abandoned that effort. Pressed to address the failure, Toomey explained:

    In the end, it didn't pass because we're so politicized. There were some on my side who did not want to be seen helping the president do something he wanted to get done, just because the president wanted to do it.

    Three years ago, Toomey revealed the underlying truth; he articulated his own party’s obstructionist blueprint. But most journalists politely filed that quote away, and they certainly haven’t dwelled on it in recent days as new gun votes loom.

    Meanwhile, back to the Times coverage. You know what would have provided additional context for the Times article, which chose to view the pending gun votes through the narrow prism of a soda straw? Polling data. The same day of the Times piece, new polling information showed that 86 percent of Americans support denying gun sales to anybody who’s on the government’s terror watch list, including 87 percent of Republicans. Numerous polls over the past few years have indicated that around 90 percent of Americans favor a background check for every gun sale. 

    As for the idea that Republicans can’t find common ground with Democrats on gun legislation because this year is an election year? That just defies logic and whitewashes what’s transpired for the last eight years.

    How do we know current Republican obstruction isn’t about election year positioning? We know because Republicans have been radically obstructing Obama every year he’s been in office, regardless of balloting.

    Remember these two initiatives that the GOP bizarrely blocked when no significant elections were pending:

    *Disaster relief for Hurricane Sandy victims (January 2013)

    *The Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans Act (December 2014)

    And don’t forget about the GOP’s illogical government shutdown of 2013 and the equally loopy sequestration that same year.

    It’s simply not credible to blame possible failed gun votes this week on “election year” politics. After eight years, we know the Republican Party’s radical obstructionist streak pays no attention to the calendar.

  • How The Media Helped Donald Trump Boost His Candidacy

    Harvard Professor Gives Insight Into New Shorenstein Report About How The Media Helped Trump And Hurt Clinton

    Blog ››› ››› JOE STRUPP

    The author of a new Harvard study on the media’s coverage of the presidential primary says the press clearly helped Donald Trump on his path to becoming the presumptive Republican nominee.

    This week, Harvard Kennedy School’s Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy released a detailed report on the media’s coverage of the presidential race in 2015, the year leading up to the first primaries. The study found that “Trump is arguably the first bona fide media-created presidential nominee. Although he subsequently tapped a political nerve, journalists fueled his launch."

    The study’s author, Harvard professor Thomas E. Patterson, told Media Matters in an interview that the massive amount of Trump coverage -- as well as its largely positive tone -- predated Trump’s rise in the polls and “helped position him to make a stronger run.”

    “In the past, to get a lot of coverage pre-Iowa you had to be pretty high in the polls, and they started to give him heavy coverage when he was way down there, in the single digits,” Patterson said in an interview. “It is virtually impossible when you go back through all the races before 2016 when you were in a multi-candidate field and you were down where he was you are almost an afterthought to journalists.”

    The study looked at coverage of the candidates prior to the caucus and primary votes by Fox News, CBS, NBC, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, The Wall Street Journal and USA Today.

    Equating the Trump coverage to advertising dollars, Patterson’s report found that Trump received about $55 million worth of positive and neutral coverage in the eight outlets studied, well ahead of the second place candidate, Jeb Bush, at $36 million.

    “It’s gold, it works in every way in [his] favor,” Patterson said. “As you start to go up in the polls, there is a circular pattern, you can raise money and it becomes easier to pull voters into your column. What was abnormal was this extraordinary amount of attention Trump got early on even though he did not appear on paper to be a credible candidate. He was far down in the polls, but he made statements that made for great stories.”

    The study found that all eight of the news outlets studied gave Trump predominantly positive or neutral coverage, from The New York Times, where 63% of stories about Trump were positive or neutral, to USA Today, which led the way with 74%.

    By the same token, Clinton received largely negative coverage across the eight news outlets during 2015. The report argues of this disparity, "Whereas media coverage helped build up Trump, it helped tear down Clinton. Trump’s positive coverage was the equivalent of millions of dollars in ad-buys in his favor, whereas Clinton’s negative coverage can be equated to millions of dollars in attack ads, with her on the receiving end." 

    Patterson pointed to reporting on Clinton's use of a private email account while secretary of state and Republicans' ongoing focus on the 2012 Benghazi attacks as two of the most negatives stories.

    “In her case, the emails and the questions about the emails, how big an issue is this actually, that was a big part of her coverage,” Patterson said. “Benghazi was a bigger part of the news early on and then she had that day-long session with Congress that a lot of people thought she did quite well with. Of all the candidates of recent decades who have been front-runners, she has had the strongest headwinds of negative coverage.”

    But Patterson said the press may have over-covered the email issue and failed to put it in proper context.

    “How big an issue is the email controversy in the context of the candidate’s preparedness and ability to be president of the states?” he asked. “I think you would get some who say it is a molehill into a mountain. My own sense is that as a standalone issue the emails are pretty small potatoes in the realm of presidential preparedness. It has been a common practice in Congress and among cabinet officers to combine them one way or another. She is not an outlier on this and you could ask why the press has not brought that part of the story into it.”

    Patterson added that even apart from those controversies, Clinton’s “substantive issue coverage was more negative than the other candidates.”

    Despite the helping hand the media gave Trump during the primaries, Patterson notes that “in the past few weeks, Trump has gotten the kind of press scrutiny that if it had come earlier it would have been a drag of some kind on his candidacy, perhaps enough to make it hard for him to go into the convention with a majority.”

  • Fox News Joins Media Coalition Asking For Release Of Trump U. Depositions

    Fox’s Move Ensures Right-Wing Media Spin Of Trump Deposition

    Blog ››› ››› ANDREW LAWRENCE

    Fox News joined a media coalition asking the judge in the Trump U. fraud case to release videos of presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump being questioned over the real estate program. The move by Fox comes after defending Trump from allegations of fraud surrounding the Trump U. controversy.

    On June 11 Politico reported that a number of media organizations asked Judge Gonzalo Curiel to release video of Trump’s testimony in the Trump U. case. Lawyers for the media coalition argued that the lawsuit “has become a prominent election issue” and that Trump himself had cited Trump U. “as an example of his business success.” The initial coalition included all major TV news networks except for Fox News, as well as newspaper publishers from The New York Times, Washington Post, and Tribune Publishing.

    On June 15, Politico reported that Fox News joined the effort, stating that they were not aware of the request and became interested in joining as soon as they learned of the move:

    Fox News is joining a media coalition seeking to obtain full access to depositions presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump gave in a class-action lawsuit over his Trump University real estate seminar program.

    When an array of news organizations moved last week to loosen restrictions on the deposition transcripts and videos, all the major news networks were part of the effort, except for Fox. Also on board were the New York Times, the Washington Post and Tribune Co., publisher of the Los Angeles Times and Chicago Tribune.

    In a filing Wednesday with U.S. District Court Judge Gonzalo Curiel in San Diego, lawyers for the media coalition said Fox was joining the consortium supporting the drive to remove confidential designations on parts of Trump's testimony. If those restrictions are lifted, either side in the case would be free to release the transcripts in their entirety and likely the videos of the depositions as well.

    Fox News’ decision to join the media coalition now ensures that right-wing media can continue their struggle to defend Trump by selectively using any video released.

  • NY Times’ Greenhouse: Contraceptive Mandate At Supreme Court "Is Not A Case About Nuns”

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    The New York Times' Supreme Court expert, Linda Greenhouse, wrote that the recent Supreme Court case about the opt-out process developed to accommodate religious nonprofits' objections to the Affordable Care Act's (ACA) contraceptive mandate “is not a case about nuns” -- a reference to one of the plaintiffs in the case, The Little Sisters of the Poor. Greenhouse noted that “opponents of the contraception mandate have been brilliant in positioning the case as being about nuns,” even though the Little Sisters are only one of the 30 plaintiffs, and that “it’s hard to believe” that such positioning “has not at least subliminally played on the instincts and helped to shape the views of some members of the Supreme Court.”

    In Zurbik v Burwell, the Supreme Court was asked to decide if the objecting 30 religious nonprofits -- which, Greenhouse wrote, included “Little Sisters of the Poor, a religious order whose mission is to run nursing homes for the elderly poor” -- were substantially burdened by the requirement that they notify their insurance provider that they object to providing contraception coverage. This notification would then allow the insurance providers to provide cost-free contraceptive coverage to the employees of the objecting religious nonprofits. On May 16, the Supreme Court opted not to decide the case on its merits and sent it back to the lower courts, hoping that  the government and the plaintiffs would work out a compromise .

    Greenhouse wrote that aside from the Little Sisters, the other plaintiffs include high schools, colleges, charities and several individuals, saying that “it’s time for the administration and its supporters to recapture the narrative and make clear to a confused public that this is not a case about nuns. It’s a case about women who should not, by reason of their particular employment, have to forfeit the right to comprehensive health care that the law makes available to other women in the work force.”

    From The New York Times’ May 26 column:

    By my count, the Little Sisters of the Poor (who, as I’ve noted before, advertise themselves as equal-opportunity employers in the nursing home enterprise) are only one of 30 petitioners in the seven Supreme Court cases. The other 29 include Catholic and Baptist colleges, Catholic high schools, individual bishops, two chapters of Catholic Charities, other charities, and several individuals. Granted, it’s more compelling to hear about the travails of the Little Sisters (who even merited a photo op with Pope Francis last September) than about the objection to contraception coverage held by the named plaintiff in the lead case, the Most Reverend David A. Zubik of the Diocese of Pittsburgh.

    Opponents of the contraception mandate have been brilliant in positioning the case as being about nuns who have a name “perfectly pitched to make liberals/progressives squirm,” as Mona Charen wrote in National Review in a post that accused The Washington Post of burying the group’s name in its story about the court’s decision. A reader had to turn to the jump, Ms. Charen complained, and “read down another five paragraphs to learn this is the case brought by the Little Sisters of the Poor.” Well, yes, and 29 other plaintiffs.

    So pervasive has the administration-versus-nuns narrative been that it’s hard to believe that it has not at least subliminally played on the instincts and helped to shape the views of some members of the Supreme Court. Now that the cases are most likely back to square one, it’s time for the administration and its supporters to recapture the narrative and make clear to a confused public that this is not a case about nuns. It’s a case about women who should not, by reason of their particular employment, have to forfeit the right to comprehensive health care that the law makes available to other women in the work force. Wishful thinking, perhaps, but an urgent task.

  • Media Explain Everything Wrong With Trump’s Energy Speech

    ››› ››› DENISE ROBBINS

    Presumptive GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump gave a speech about energy issues on May 26 at an oil conference in North Dakota in which he asserted that he would expand fossil fuel drilling and restore coal mining jobs and he ignored or downplayed renewable energy’s potential. Media figures have criticized Trump’s claims as “utter nonsense” that “defy free market-forces” and noted that his remarks displayed a “lack of basic knowledge” about the energy industry and were full of “absurd, impossible-to-keep promises.”

  • As Trump Advisers Push Entitlement Cuts, NY Times Compares Trump To Sanders

    ››› ››› ALEX KAPLAN

    A New York Times article claimed that presumptive GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump’s pledge “to protect Social Security and Medicare” and to “leave entitlements untouched” indicates he’s taken a page from Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders’ campaign playbook. But The Times failed to note that Trump previously called Social Security a “Ponzi scheme” and that at least two of his advisers have advocated cutting or privatizing Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and disability benefits -- and have indicated as recently as this month that Trump would also be open to changing those programs.

  • NY Times Editorial Board Slams Republican Obstruction On Garland Confirmation In Light Of Zubik V. Burwell Punt

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    The New York Times editorial board slammed Senate Republicans’ ongoing obstruction of Merrick Garland’s nomination to the Supreme Court, explaining that the inability to resolve the Zubik v. Burwell case shows the harm in a court “without a full bench.”

    On May 16, the Supreme Court handed down an unsigned per curiam opinion on the high-profile Zubik v. Burwell case, remanding the lawsuit back to a federal appeals court for further consideration of how religious accommodations are granted within the Affordable Care Act’s contraception mandate.

    The New York Times editorial board pointed out that this type of opinion, which does not create Supreme Court precedent but instead allows for the potential to revisit similar cases in the future, illustrates the harm in Senate Republican’ ongoing obstruction of Merrick Garland’s confirmation to the Supreme Court. The Times’ editorial board lamented that opinions such as Zubik “leave millions of Americans waiting for justice or clarity as major legal questions are unresolved,” and concluded that “despite what Senate Republicans may say,” the Zubik punt showed that “the court cannot do its job without a full bench.”

    From the May 16 editorial (emphasis added):

    Every day that passes without a ninth justice undermines the Supreme Court’s ability to function, and leaves millions of Americans waiting for justice or clarity as major legal questions are unresolved.

    On Monday, the eight-member court avoided issuing a ruling on one of this term’s biggest cases, Zubik v. Burwell, which challenges the Affordable Care Act’s requirement that employers’ health care plans cover the cost of birth control for their employees. In an unsigned opinion, the court sent the lawsuits back to the lower federal courts, with instructions to try to craft a compromise that would be acceptable to everyone.

    This is the second time since Justice Antonin Scalia’s death in February that the court has failed to reach a decision in a high-profile case; in March, the court split 4 to 4 in a labor case involving the longstanding right of public-sector unions, which represent millions of American workers, to charge collective bargaining fees to nonmembers.

    [...]

    Unfortunately, the justices appear to be evenly split on this issue, as they may be on other significant cases pending before them.

    The court’s job is not to propose complicated compromises for individual litigants; it is to provide the final word in interpreting the Constitution and the nation’s laws. Despite what Senate Republicans may say about the lack of harm in the delay in filling the vacancy, the court cannot do its job without a full bench.

     

  • Right-Wing Media Lash Out Over President Obama’s Call For Protections For Transgender Students

    ››› ››› NICK FERNANDEZ

    President Obama is expected to announce “a sweeping directive” that will instruct public school districts around the country “to allow transgender students to use the bathroom that matches their gender identity” in order to prevent discrimination. Right-wing media figures are already lashing out at the initiative claiming it is driven by “a fringe movement of nutters” and peddling the myth that protections for transgender students will lead to the sexual assault of girls.

  • An Extensive Guide To The Fact Checks, Debunks, And Criticisms Of Trump’s Various Problematic Policy Proposals

    ››› ››› TYLER CHERRY & JARED HOLT

    Over the course of the 2016 presidential primary, presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has laid forth a series of problematic policy proposals and statements -- ranging from his plan to ban Muslims from entering the United States to his suggestion that the United States default on debt -- that media have warned to be “dangerous,” “fact-free,” “unconstitutional,” “contradictory,” “racist,” and “xenophobic.” Media Matters compiled an extensive list of Trump’s widely panned policy plans thus far along with the debunks and criticism from media figures, experts and fact-checkers that go along with them.

  • Media Slam Trump’s “Insane” Plan To Default On U.S. Debt

    Analysts Explain That Real Estate Gimmicks Don’t Work For The American Economy

    ››› ››› CRAIG HARRINGTON & ALEX MORASH

    During a lengthy phone interview with CNBC, presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump outlined a plan to partially default on the United States’ outstanding sovereign debt obligations in hopes of eventually negotiating lower rates of repayment. The tactic is common in the types of commercial real estate dealings Trump is familiar with, but journalists and financial analysts stressed that employing such a strategy with American debt would undermine global financial stability and potentially drive the American economy into a deep recession.

  • 16 Times The Media Let Trump Falsely Claim He Opposed The Iraq War From The Beginning

    ››› ››› ALEX KAPLAN, NICK FERNANDEZ & CYDNEY HARGIS

    Media figures and outlets have repeatedly pushed the myth, or allowed Donald Trump to push the myth, that he opposed the Iraq War from the beginning. There is no evidence to support this claim and February reporting from BuzzFeed News showed Trump voiced support “for invading Iraq” in 2002 and termed it a "tremendous success" after the invasion began.